Wat Magic

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Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Angkor Wat. One of earth’s cultural treasures made even more famous by appearing in a movie – Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. The movie appeared in 2001 and was followed by another in 2003. I’ll admit I’ve never seen either movie except for bits and pieces, but when you see the shot at Ta Prohm, it seems impossible that it is a real place and not a movie set. Seeing the roots of giant trees grasping for a hold on the ancient stone temple while massive limbs reach hundreds of feet into the sky seems to defy the laws of physics.  The roots, like the fingers of a cliff climber, curl around to lodge their bony flesh into every crack and crevice, securing a hold as the tree reaches for the sun.

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Ta Prohm, Cambodia

On my first visit to Cambodia in 2004, the Cambodians were eager to talk about the movie and the movie stars. That visit was prior to the massive hordes of tourists that are now commonplace and I felt I could explore the several structures in some peace, lingering to take photos and inspect the handiwork from around 1113 AD. Siem Reap was a small and manageable city then; a few restaurants for tourists and some small hotels and guest houses.  But I could already see the signs of progress as construction sites were rampant with signs announcing new hotels.  When I returned in 2014, the area had changed. It had become a city full of tourists and high end hotels, bars, and restaurants promoting a “party” atmosphere along the once quieter streets.

On my first visit I shot this small “traffic jam” at the ancient temple.  Look closely and you’ll see the elephant at the front of the line entering the gate.  Thankfully, the elephant rides are ending.  (The more I know about elephant training, the more I can’t stand the thought of these great creatures ferrying humans around.)  I was happy to hire a tuk-tuk for the day (a motorcycle pulling a small cart with an awning for shade) and my driver was great.

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“Traffic Jam” at Angkor Wat


Ten years later, Angkor Wat was just as amazing as before even if more crowded.  I always have mixed feelings about the number of tourists.  The more who see and appreciate historical sights, the easier it is to raise money to protect them.  The flip side is that more needs to be done to protect them from the ravages of the hordes.  Watch closely – some people insist on being disrespectful and even destructive (graffiti anyone?) but most truly revel in the sight of something so immense in its statement.  I found myself taking photo after photo (no flash!) to capture the timeless art and the lovely detailed engravings telling the stories and fables of the past. See the serpent grasping a man in his jaws below?  What could he have done to deserve that?


Angkor Wat engraving: Serpent grasping a man in his jaws

How have these structures survived the years?  The temples and buildings of Angkor sit inside a dense jungle and efforts started almost one hundred years ago to clear the site and make it accessible once again.


Jungle surrounding Angkor Wat

If only we could know all of the buried secrets of the past.  Lara – Is that you?


Statue at Angkor Wat temple

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Copyright 2016 ©wanderlynntravel.wordpress.com; photos cannot be reproduced without permission. (Wikipedia used to confirm a few facts about Angkor Wat.)


Travel Sines (or Signs?)

Sign Vietnam

Sign in shop in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), Vietnam

This is one of the most hilarious signs I’ve seen anywhere and to see it hanging on a door in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, made it even more hysterical.  Maybe this is the Vietnamese version of shaming a deadbeat landlord.

I love words and I love to see what people do with them when translating or communicating in another country.  The English language can be tricky – think of all the words that sound alike but are spelled differently, such as sine and sign.  These homonyms must be a constant source of frustration for the English learner – the devil is in the details.

Some signs are fun and humorous in their depiction, such as this “Beware of Dog” sign in France.  Yikes!!  Yes, a picture is worth a thousand words and possibly a deferred medical bill.  Notice the absence of underwear.

France Chien

“Beware of Dog” in France

And here is another sign you don’t see every day.  Kind of made me want to jump on the ramparts, but I had to ask my friend, “What EXACTLY are ramparts?”  And would I incite the fury of the French police if I tiptoed across one?  I’m sure the French version of jail with bread and water might actually mean Perrier and croissants.  Unless it’s really as grim as in Les Misérables.  I settled for the photo.

France Ramparts

Sign at a castle in central France

I found this sign to be so politely perfect while walking through one of the temples at Angkor Wat, that I couldn’t even be upset that they had blocked a section to tourists.

Angkor sign

Angkor Wat apology sign

There is the occasional best attempt to translate into English and it is generally not a bad effort, if only off by one letter. I let it go, with a chuckle.  I can’t even pretend to translate into Cambodian. My sign would probably end up saying, “Vice Shop and Drug Shop.”  And then I would wonder why I had such a shady clientele.

Dring shop

Shop in Siem Reap, Cambodia

And sometimes the concept is communicated…. well, almost.  I get it. This is not a hat.

Hump Cambodia

Road sign in Cambodia

And then I found this especially interesting.  I had turned on the TV in a small hotel in Sittwe, Myanmar and found the movie “Tremors” playing.  But what really surprised me was the notices that kept popping up every time one of the actors lit a cigarette!  “Smoking causes Cancer. Smoking Kills.”  And this was in a hotel where I actually had to move rooms because the stench of smoke in the hallway was so horrendous.  Go figure.

Smoking Myanmar

Smoking Warning, Myanmar TV

I’ve decided I could make an entire career by translating various signs all over the world.  I’ve visited amazing places like the Shanghai Museum, knowing they’ve made a huge effort to translate exhibit descriptions into the internationally recognized language of English, and then I see a small misstep that always seems to catch my attention.  I know I’m not perfect either so I just smile and keep reading.  The intent is genuine and that is most important.

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Copyright 2016 ©wanderlynntravel.wordpress.com; photos cannot be reproduced without permission.